Why the consumer excitement over the Wii U is lacking

I really want a Wii U. I can’t wait for one. As a nerd, I love new tech hardware. As someone who plays video games, i love it when a new console is released. As a Nintendo geek, I love new Nintendo consoles. But unfortunately, Nintendo isn’t pushing the right buttons with consumers. Here’s why.

1. The Wii U hasn’t been differentiated enough from the Wii. Yes, they’ve mentioned a ton about the GamePad. But the name itself, “Wii U”, doesn’t indicate a clear sense of succession like “PlayStation 2” or “Xbox 360” does to its predecessors. Thus, people initially see it as a peripheral, and get shocked that it starts at $299.

2. They’re marketing it wrong. Leading up to launch, Nintendo told us how they wanted to cater to the hardcore market. And in pushing Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Mass Effect III, and Assassin’s Creed III to us, they’ve indicated some interest. But I haven’t seen commercials for COD on Wii U. I haven’t seen commercials for ACIII. I’ve seen commercials for New Super Mario Bros. U though. Nintendo needs to push the hardcore titles AS WELL AS their own.

When I introduced my dad to the Wii U last Friday (he should have already known, if the marketers were doing their part!), he indicated that household interest for it would be low because Nintendo “was for kids”. He explicitly said that my 12 year old brother “was getting too old for Mario”. Nintendo needs to break the idea that their systems are for kids and that one would grow out of their systems. One of the ways they can do that is either: A) create some hardcore IPs that really cater to the older male crowd, or B) repurpose or bring back old IPs that cater to more mature gamers. Where’s Star Fox? Where’s F-Zero? Where’s a Metroid that can stand up to Super Metroid and Metroid Prime? We’ve had enough Pikmin and Mario and Animal Crossing. And don’t dumb it down, either.

3. The system lacks focus and future-proofing. It seems that Nintendo put everything that would fit into the GamePad in it. Why the hell does it have NFC? I can’t do anything with that. A resistive touch screen? This isn’t 2005; You can’t do that anymore. USB 2.0 ports? Gimme a break. While I like the options that the Wii U presents me as a gamer and consumer, some things (like NFC) need to be dropped, and others (like adding a headphone jack on the Pro Controller) need to be added. A Nintendo-native voice chat solution would be nice too. Enough internal power to run 2 GamePads would be nice.

But Nintendo did do other things right, like releasing a Pro Controller, giving the GamePad twin sticks, and making the Wii U backwards compatible in every way. The problem is that for every good thing they did, they made another baffling decision. Sometimes, it’s what you don’t do.

4. The most damning part of it all: I haven’t been able to play one yet. I’ve poured over videos, visited Best Buy a dozen times, and stopped at GameStop, but I still haven’t been able to play one. The Best Buy here? No playable demos. Consumers are illogical and dumb, by and large. They’ve got to pick it up and play it to be convinced. Yet, all I can do is hold a GamePad and watch a video. Why they don’t just stick in Nintendo Land, I don’t know. But I know that if they did, I’d have to wait in line to play one.

Overall, I think Nintendo will be somewhat successful with the Wii U. Some third-Party content will be lacking. But at the current trajectory, I don’t think that the Wii U won’t have the lasting legacy of the 360. And coming off of the consumer success of the Wii, that’s where Nintendo needs to be.

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